Death of a Giant – Removing a Saguaro Cactus

The Hassayampa River Preserve, owned by The Nature Conservancy, has a beautiful wildflower and native plant garden taking shape at their main entrance. There is a group of old Saguaro Cactus in the garden. Recently, one of the Saguaros has started to lean, moving perceptibly after each rain. With more rain in the forecast over the next few days, the decision was made to remove the cactus.

How do you take out a cactus that is 15ft tall and weighs several tons without destroying the new wildflower garden? Just like we remove any large tree! After all, stands of Saguaros in the wild are considered a “forest”. We brought in our lift and took down the cactus a piece at a time.

Each arm tip was treated gently, and will be left to callus over. They will be replanted in a month or so. If they survive, there will be three new Saguaro Cactus in place of the single giant. The interesting thing about the new cactus is that they should bloom just like the giants! Normally, Saguaros don’t bloom until they are very old – you never see blooms up close unless one blows over in a storm. These 2ft tall arms should bloom right where everyone can see them! 

These pictures show the process we went through to take the giant down.

I was able to cut the arms into sections with the hand saw. Only the ribs offered resistance.

Lowering a section into the cart.

We lowered each piece into our log cart so it could be wheeled away!

Dropping the last section of trunk.

Piecing up the trunk so it can be hauled off. The sections are tremendously heavy!

Cross-section of trunk left as an example for tour groups!

No Jerome, cactus doesn't taste good!!!